September 5, 2013… Seana McKenna yesterday received the degree of Doctor of Sacred Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Trinity College in the University of Toronto. The citation was made by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and Ms McKenna was “hooded” by Toronto Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian.
Ms McKenna, who attended Trinity on scholarship as an Honours English major, made her Stratford Festival debut as Helena in the 1982 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and in the decades since has won international renown for her work.
“Seana McKenna is simply one of the greatest actors Canada has ever produced,” said Mr. Cimolino in his citation.
Ms McKenna was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal earlier this year, and in 2011 received an Honorary MFA in Acting from The American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, joining such other recipients as Olympia Dukakis, Tracy Chapman, John Guare and Denzel Washington.
In addition to 22 seasons at Stratford, she has performed in more than 80 productions at other theatres across Canada and the U.S. and has a number of achievements on screen, including a Genie Award for her supporting role in The Hanging Garden.
“For examples of her range and versatility, one need look no further than the current season, in which she plays the delightfully eccentric Madame Arcati in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit and the hard-edged but deeply complex Elizabeth I in Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart,” said Mr. Cimolino.
Ms McKenna’s previous Stratford roles have ranged from the title roles in Euripides’ Medea and Racine’s Phèdre to Dotty Otley in Michael Frayn’s great farce Noises Off. She has played every one of Shakespeare’s leading ladies, many of them at Stratford, as well as his wife, Anne Hathaway, in the acclaimed one-woman show Shakespeare’s Will. Her talent is unbounded even by gender: in 2011 she made history for the Festival by playing the title role in Richard III.
It is not talent alone that makes Ms McKenna a great leader of the Festival company, but also her care for her fellow artists. In addition to mentoring younger colleagues in the profession, she has devoted her time and energy to serving on our Guthrie Awards committee, as an instructor in our Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre and as a director of the Actors’ Fund of Canada.
“To everything she does – and I speak from experience, having had the privilege of directing her in Mary Stuart and in Tennessee Williams’s The Night of the Iguana – Seana brings an incisive intelligence, powerful analytical skills and a keen sense of curiosity: qualities that clearly were recognized, encouraged and developed during her years at Trinity College,” said Mr. Cimolino.
The staff and company of the Stratford Festival extend their heartiest congratulations to Ms McKenna on this great honour from her alma mater.